• John Luxton
Fisheries and Aquaculture

Some Fish Industry claims that the Governemt was "intent on removing small fishers from the fishery" were absoulute rubbish, Minsiter of Fisheries, Hon John Luxton said this today. The Minister's comments were in response to comments made by Mr Tony Craig of the Federation of Commercial Fishermen on TV3 news last night.

The Minister made his comments from the Marshall Islands where he is pushing New Zealand's fishing interest at the Second High level Multilateral Conference which is looking at Migratory fishing issues.

"Mr Craig is wrong. There is no deliberate intent to remove anyone from the fishery. All participants in the fishing industry make a valuable contribution to New Zealand's economy, exporting in excess of $1.2 billion per year and meeting the demands of the local market. As the new Minister of Fisheries I only want the industry to progress and grow further.

Mr Luxton said he appreciated some of the concerns expressed by small fishers regarding cost recovery and would be interested in the outcome of the select committe inquiry. However, the present charges were the result of 10 months extensive consultation. Mr Craig's organisation played a big part in this extensive consultation last year on setting levies which are now legally required to be paid.

"I am advised that it was the industry itself that wanted a change to have costs lie where they fall. At industry's request this resulted in only 3 levies; the vessel/permitholders levy, the client liasion levy and the Crown receipts levy being charged at a standard rate. These 3 levies make up less than 10% of the total $32.5m levy costs. All other levies vary according to size of operation"

Mr Luxton said that contrary to what some beleive, total levies this year are less than last. For the 1996/97 year $32.5 million is to be recovered from the commercial industry out of a total Ministry budget of $48.9 million. This compares with $35.3 million from the commercial industry out of a total of $47.8 million for the 1995/96 year. However the changes sought by the industry do mean that some smaller fishers are paying more while some large fishers are paying less for the 3 levies, but that was the outcome of the industry agreed approach.

"While I am aware that times are currently pretty tough for the fishing industry, I feel very confident about its future. The fishing industry is one of New Zealands most innovative, vibrant and important sectors. I hope that Mr Craig can be a bit more constructive to progress the industry rather than make perhaps misleading statements to the media," Mr Luxton concluded.